December 27, 2015

2016: THE STAKES ARE HIGH


The year 2015 has been one to forget for the saffron outfit; after being routed in the Delhi state polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was further embarrassed in Bihar later in the year when the NDA was convincing beaten by the grand opposition led by bitter rival Nitish Kumar. Rising prices, the 'intolerance' debate and failure of the government to bring in the much anticipated reforms has meant that the aura of invincibility surrounding the BJP and the Prime Minister has been busted; the much hyped Modi wave seems to have vanished and Amit Shah's political acumen seems to have deserted him completely.

Probably, the only saving grace for the party is that the popularity of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to remain high. However, as the Delhi and Bihar polls have shown, it cannot solely depend on the PM to win them the elections in the states. Amongst the five states that are scheduled to go to the polls in 2016, Assam is one where the BJP will fancy its chances in the wake of rising anti-incumbency against the Tarun Gogoi government. It remains to be seen what strategy the party applies in Tamil Nadu and neighboring Pondicherry. Will it revive the NDA in Tamil region and fight the polls with Vijaykant's MDMK or abandon its front and ally with the Jayalalithaa? Moreover, it remains to be seen if the BJP can finally break its jinx and make its debut in Kerala. Also, the party will hope to improve its share in Bengal.

For the Congress, this year has been a mixed bag. The year started on a bad note with the grand old party being wiped out from the capital. However, the victory of the grand alliance of which the INC was a part of in Bihar did bring in a lot of cheers. More importantly, a big hurray for the party is that its Vice President Rahul Gandhi seems to be taking charge of the affairs of late. The party's strategy to stall Parliament has worked till now but then it must make sure that it does not over do it.

Looking forward to 2016, the Congress is still to regain its lost political pride which can only be restored by a famous win in the electoral arena. Probably, from the INC's perspective, the only state where it has a chance to register a big electoral win is Kerala where it is in power. Considering the present political conditions, it is unlikely that the party can win a fourth straight win in Assam in the wake of rebellion within its ranks. Allying with the DMK is the only option to do well in Tamil Nadu whereas Bengal will be a lost cause, unless the INC makes up with the TMC.

Compared to the two national parties, perhaps the upcoming year is the most important for the Left Front as two of the three states where it has a significant presence go to the polls. And to be frank, the situation does not seem to be particularly good. In its former bastion of Bengal, the TMC is all set to retain its hold in Kolkata thanks to the inability of the Communists to put up a spirited fight. The fight in Kerala seems to be a really tight one with the Congress going all out to keep the Left Front at bay.

Finally, the stakes are high for the regional players too. Jayalalithaa who was believed to be comfortably placed to win a consecutive term is now facing the heat, especially after the deluge in Chennai and Cuddalore. The only saving grace for her is that the DMK is ridden with internal strife and the taint surrounding the alleged involvement of some of its top leaders in the 2G scam is yet to go. In the east, Mamta Bannerjee though is in a much better position, thanks to an inefficient opposition and her goons.